Blog Picture

The Truth Re Lying On Your CV

by Carl
Date: May 2012
 

Former Yahoo! chief Scott Thompson denied lying on his CV, but the story is a reminder of the danger of 'embellishing' credentials as social media transforms recruitment.

What has happened to former Yahoo! chief executive Scott Thompson, since it was alleged that he lied on his CV about his degree, is a cautionary tale for people in any profession.

Thompson, who is understood to have told colleagues that he never supplied any incorrect information about his academic credentials, agreed to resign last weekend after a mere five months at the helm of the internet company. The driving force behind his appointment, Patti Hart, who chaired the chief executive search committee, had already effectively fallen on her sword, announcing that she will not seek re-election at Yahoo!'s next annual meeting.

Thompson's 14,000 colleagues no doubt monitored the situation closely, after a Yahoo! investor uncovered the CV anomaly earlier this month.

Onerous task

The absurd aspect is that, for such a senior appointment, the degree course Thompson pursued many years ago - and whether it was in accountancy or computer science - is probably of little relevance to whether he was a suitable chief executive. Thompson, formerly chief technology officer and then president at PayPal, had been poached to take on the onerous task of turning around Yahoo!'s ailing fortunes.

The embarrassing situation is a wake-up call for any profession, according to Sian Harrington, editor of HR Magazine.

'With graduate jobs so thin on the ground, it is tempting to think you need to show something special to get through the recruiter's door. This can lead to lies about education, employment history, achievements and qualifications,' she says. 'The problem is that you get found out.'

Misleading information

Harrington cites research from the Risk Advisory Group, which vets candidate credentials for employers, which found that CVs contained an average of three pieces of misleading information. The consultancy says it has seen a 20% increase in CV discrepancies since the start of the credit crunch, as the downturn makes it harder to get jobs.

Employers are using sophisticated vetting tools to verify CVs to a greater degree, with companies such as Risk Advisory and Universities UK reporting that demand is rising due to the recession and the proliferation of fake qualifications available to buy online.

Recent research from employment-law specialists ELAS reveals that a third of managers admit to lying or exaggerating about their qualifications. So, if lying is so widespread, how sure can employers be about the credentials of marketers they hire?

'Over-egging'

'There is a distinct difference between candidates over-egging what they have done in previous roles and lying about education and qualifications,' argues Richard Hutchinson, whose remit as sourcing channel manager at Argos and Homebase parent company Home Retail Group includes recruitment.

'This is where the interview process is important in establishing the facts, particularly for marketers, who operate in a soft-skilled environment, where it's more about experience,' he adds.

At General Mills UK & Ireland, owners of brands such as Haagen-Dazs and Old El Paso, candidate selection is rigorous. 'We have in place those things which we believe represent due diligence, including probing during the selection process to ascertain an individual's suitability,' says Sue Swanborough, General Mills HR director (see box).

Due diligence

Traditionally, HR professionals would place a recruitment ad, sift through CVs, invite candidates to an interview and obtain references as part of the standard due diligence process.

Social media has transformed this approach, however. Attracting talented individuals who are not actively job-seeking - called 'passive candidates' - is becoming a priority, because they are much easier to identify via networks such as LinkedIn. 'A lot of top-quality talent is likely to be retained quite nicely in an

organisation. We need to find them and go to them with a good proposition about our organisation,' explains Hutchinson. 'We need to find out how they tick, so we can go to them and show them what is great about this role, or how it gives them more responsibility.'

Although anecdotal evidence suggests that lying is more widespread than ever among applicants, it is also easier to get found out. In the past, a CV would be sent only to a select few, but now background information is available to thousands, including former colleagues and bosses, who can verify it.

Applicants' personalities

There is still much debate about the ethics of recruiters using personal social networks to assess applicants' personalities. However, Peter Mooney, head of employment law at business compliance services firm ELAS, says the temptation to do so is understandable.

'We have noticed a growth in potential employers checking out employees on Facebook or Twitter and we would suggest employers should rely on application forms and CVs, rather than sneaky background checks. But, human nature being what it is, it would be hard to police that,' he adds.

Rob Rees, an interim marketing director who has held roles at Dairy Crest, Vodafone and Friends Provident, says the vetting of senior marketer candidates is still done face-to-face. 'The traditional executive headhunter hasn't died because of Facebook and LinkedIn,' he adds. 'The most powerful way to recruit at senior levels is still through networking and search firms. About 75% of my interim work has come from networking and LinkedIn is a powerful addition to that.'

There are still candidates and employers that prefer to go through consultants. 'We meet everybody we introduce to our clients,' says Susan Howstan, director at Direct Recruitment, which specialises in direct and digital-marketing roles. 'We would investigate any concerns we might have.'

She adds that hiring someone without taking references 'would be ridiculous'.

Omissions

Howstan says marketer CVs are more likely to feature omissions than lies. 'A candidate might put three jobs under one small paragraph, for example,' she says.

Rees argues that the furore around whether Thompson did or did not embellish his CV comes second to his career to date, 'as he has great, senior experience and a track record'.

Nevertheless, with online scandals having a habit of hanging about, Thompson has become famous not for taking tough decisions during Yahoo!'s evolution, but for being that guy accused of lying about having a computer science degree
Team Talk
On Jun 2017
Avoid Recruitment Fails by Alison Adkins
On Jun 2017
CVs Extinct in 5 Years? by Alison Adkins
On May 2017
On Apr 2017
On Jan 2017
On Jan 2017
On Nov 2016
On Nov 2016
How to Handle a Job Offer by Alison Adkins
On Oct 2016
Receiving a Counter-Offer by Alison Adkins
On Oct 2016
On Sep 2016
On Sep 2016
Social Media Advice by Alison Adkins
On Aug 2016
Best Interview Question by Alison Adkins
On Aug 2016
On Jul 2016
London is Less Flexible by Alison Hawkins
On Apr 2016
We're Hiring! by Alison Hawkins
On Feb 2016
Fed up of Commuting? by Alison Hawkins
On Feb 2016
New Year, New You! by Alison Hawkins
On Jan 2016
Christmas Competition by Alison Hawkins
On Dec 2015
Company Branding by Alison Hawkins
On Oct 2015
On Jun 2015
On Nov 2014
Telephone Screening by Alison Hawkins
On Oct 2014
Selecting Candidates by Alison Hawkins
On Oct 2014
On Sep 2014
On Jan 2014
On Jul 2013
On Jan 2013
On May 2012
On Mar 2012
On Dec 2010
On Dec 2010
On Nov 2010
On Nov 2010
On Oct 2010
On Oct 2010
On Oct 2010
On Oct 2010
On Sep 2010
On Sep 2010
On Aug 2010
Adios Amigo! by Carl & Pete
On Jul 2010
Redimo...... by Carl
On May 2010
On Mar 2010
On Feb 2010
On Feb 2010
Mince Pie Overdose by Carl Booth
On Jan 2010
On Dec 2009
On Nov 2009
On Nov 2009
On Oct 2009
On Oct 2009
10:10 by Guy
On Sep 2009
On Aug 2009
On Aug 2009
On Jul 2009
On Jun 2009
On May 2009
On Mar 2009
On Mar 2009
On Feb 2009
On Jan 2009
On Dec 2008
On Dec 2008
On Dec 2008
On Nov 2008
On Nov 2008
On Oct 2008
On Oct 2008
On Sep 2008
On Sep 2008
On Sep 2008
On Aug 2008
On Jul 2008
On Jul 2008
On Jul 2008
On Jun 2008
On Jun 2008
On Jun 2008
On May 2008
On May 2008
On May 2008
On May 2008
On Apr 2008
On Apr 2008
On Mar 2008
On Mar 2008
On Jan 2008
On Jan 2008
On Jan 2008
On Dec 2007
On Nov 2007
On Nov 2007
On Oct 2007
On Sep 2007
On Aug 2007
On Aug 2007
On Jul 2007
On Jul 2007
On Jul 2007
On Jun 2007
On Jun 2007
On May 2007
On May 2007
On May 2007
On May 2007
On Apr 2007
On Apr 2007
On Jan 2007
On Jan 2007
On Jan 2007
View the archive